Life & Living
Smashing your goals
I’m a 41 year old mother of two girls and one French bulldog, and I’m a Personal Fitness Coach. I work one to one with clients aged 18-80, and have additional specialisms in pre and post natal training, GP exercise referral, cancer rehabilitation and pilates. I also run community fitness classes in the Suffolk coastal area.
The two most common requests I get from clients are to ‘tone up’ (build muscle), and to ‘reduce body fat’.
Although on the face of it these may seem like aesthetic goals, reducing excess body fat and building and maintaining muscle mass are also essential for many areas of our health. The key to achieving both goals is consistency and patience! These are my top tips for smashing your fat loss and muscle building goals.
This isn’t just the realm of body builders you know! Whether you want to tone up, be faster, stronger, more agile, reduce joint pain or boost your metabolism, building muscle is key! There are a few factors to consider when building muscle:
Resistance is required!
These are exercises involving pushing, pulling or lifting, such as push ups or exercises that use resistance bands
You need a plan
Consistently follow a progressive plan designed to meet your individual goals.
It takes energy (calories) to build muscle. It’s much harder to build muscle and ‘tone up’, if you are severely restricting your calories. If you’re on a very low calorie diet this could be tricky (plus it is likely won’t have the energy or motivation to do much exercise!). Protein is particularly important for both growth and repair, so aim to have a serving of protein at each meal.
Choose weights and exercises that are challenging. By the end of your set of exercises you should feel like you would only be able to complete one or two more repetitions.
Make your plan and stick with it for around 4-6 weeks before changing it. Your muscles don’t need to be ‘confused’ with lots of different random exercises, they need to be gradually and progressively overloaded to stimulate them to adapt.
Fat loss and weight loss are two different things. Focusing solely on weight loss means you could be losing muscle, fluid or fat. Ideally we should focus on fat loss rather than the scales as losing weight (due to losing muscle) can have negative effects in other areas of our health and wellbeing. These are my top tips for fat loss:
Most people don’t need to completely change what they’re eating. Instead pay attention to portion sizes and proportions to easily reduce calories. Most people eat portions of carbohydrates that are far too large (carbs are calorie dense), not enough veg (which provide essential nutrients), and very little protein (essential for growth and repair, and keeping us feeling full). Simple changes to make include eating carbohydrates according to the recommended serving size on the packaging, rather than going by eye. Aiming to fill around half of your plate with a range of colourful vegetables and including a serving of protein with each meal.
Look at the things you consume in a week, which have little or no nutritional value. Things like alcohol, sweets, chocolates, snack foods and fizzy drinks. A quick Google or a look on the packaging will tell you how many calories are in each item. Add them up and see how many calories you could potentially save each week by reducing your intake slightly. For example it takes around 3500 calories for you to gain (or lose) 1lb of body fat; a glass of red wine contains around 228 calories, so two of these per night, over the course of a week, could see you taking in around 3,192 ‘useless’ calories each week, equating to potentially almost 1lb weight gain.
Sleep, stress and water
Believe it or not all of these things can impact your ability to lose weight by disrupting hormones relating to hunger and affecting our energy levels. Aim for a minimum of seven hours sleep per night, 1.5-2 litres of water each day, and take steps to identify and minimise stress.
Sounds like an obvious one, but to lose body fat you do not need to go to extremes. Most of my coaching clients are able to successfully reduce body fat by following the steps mentioned above, aiming to increase their daily steps and doing three short (30 minute) home workouts per week.